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SPACE FLIGHT 2001 -- Asian Space Activities

China, India and Japan have space programs capable of launch and satellite development and operations.

China. The People's Republic's space program continued strong activities in 2001. After China separated its military and civil space programs in 1998 as part of a ministerial reform, the Chinese Space Agency CNSA (China National Space Administration) is responsible for planning and development of space activities. Its top priority today is the development of piloted space flight (followed by applications satellites). After the launch and recovery on November 21, 1999, of its first inhabitable (but still uncrewed) capsule "Shenzou", a 7200-kg. (16,000-lbs.) modified version of the Russian Soyuz vehicle, China successfully launched and recovered Shenzou 2 on January 9, 2001, with several biological experiments and small animals on board, the only launch from the People's Republic in 2001. Launch vehicle was the new human-rated Long March 2F rocket. China's Long March (Chang Zheng, CZ) series of launch vehicles consists of 12 differing versions which by the end of 2001 have made 65 flights, sending 73 payloads (satellites and spacecraft) into space, with 90% success rate. China has three modern (but land-locked, thus azimuth-restricted) launch facilities: at Jinquan (Base 20, also known as Shuang Cheng-Tzu/East Wind) for low Earth orbit (LEO) missions, Taiyuan (Base 25) for sun-synchronous missions, and Xichang (Base 27) for geostationary missions.

India. India, through the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO, created in 1969), part of the Department of Space (DOS), has intensified its development programs for satellites and launch vehicles, with a total space budget in 2001 of 505 million US-$. Main satellite programs are the INSAT (Indian National Satellite) telecommunications system, the IRS (Indian Remote Sensing) satellites for earth resources, and the new GSat series of large (up to 2.5-tons) experimental geostationary comsats. India's main launchers today are the PSLV (Polar Space Launch Vehicle) and the Delta 2-class GSLV (Geostationary Space Launch Vehicle). With one of its two launches in 2001 (April 18), India conducted the maiden flight of the GSLV-D1, equipped with a cryogenic third stage with the KVD-1 cryogenic rocket engine procured from Glavkosmos/Russia, carrying the 1.5-ton GSat-1. Due to underperformance of the KVD-1 (0.5% thrust shortfall), GSat-1 did not reach its correct geosynchronous orbit. The second launch (October 22) was a PSLV with three satellites from India, Germany and Belgium.

Japan. The central space development and operations organization in Japan is the National Space Development Agency (NASDA), spread over four centers: Tanegashima Space Center (major launch facility), Tsukuba Space Center (tracking and control), Kakuda Propulsion Center, and Earth Observation Center. NASDA developed the launchers N1, N2, H1 and H2. After seven test launches of the H2 until 1999, it was decided to focus efforts on the new, modified H2-A vehicle, an uprated and more cost-effective version of the costly H-2. Its maiden flight took place in 2001 (August 29), carrying two technology development payloads (VEP-2 and LRE). The H-2A shows future growth capability toward increasing payloads and decreasing launch costs, but development funding for it may be increasingly difficult to obtain.

One area of great promise for Japan is the International Space Station ISS Program, in which the country is participating with a sizeable 12.6% share. Its space budget in 2001 was comparable to that of the entire European (ESA) effort. Its contributions to the ISS are the Japanese Experiment Module JEM, now called "Kibo" (Hope), along with its ancillary remote manipulator system and porch-like exposed facility, and the H-2 transfer vehicle (HTV), which will carry about 6 metric tons of provisions to the ISS once or twice a year, launched on an H2-A.